Pakistan, Sri Lanka annual trade volume could exceed US$1 billion

Colombo: Pakistan High Commissioner Ms Seema Ilahi Baloch expressed satisfaction on increase in volume of bilateral trade since signing of Pakistan- Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement PSFTA which came into effect in June 13, 2005. She felt there is huge untapped potential in this area and with collective effort, annual trade volume could exceed US$1 billion.

Speaking at news briefing with Sri Lanka Export Development Board EDB Chairman & Chief Executive Janaka Ratnayake here, she said institutional infrastructure in shape of FTA on goods, Bilateral Investment Treaty, MoU on Customs Cooperation is in place and framework can be strengthened by negotiating, concluding Services & Investment chapters of FTA, Daily News reported.

She invited Sri Lankan investors to visit Pakistan and explore its potential, including geo- strategic location, trained workforce, abundant raw materials, infrastructure, investor-friendly policies. Pakistan is especially looking forward to investments in energy sector.

Ms Seema said Pakistani agricultural products provide cheaper and higher quality alternative to Sri Lankan imports from countries such as Australia & South America. This in no way would compete with local farm products and add to diversity to consumer advantage. One such product was Pakistani mangoes, seasonal product (June- August) and due to high quality being exported to western countries passing their strict quarantine requirements.

Ratnayake said, “Pakistan and Sri Lanka enjoys a strong and long standing bilateral multi- faceted relationship, including economic cooperation. Sri Lanka considers Pakistan as a true friend who stood by its people during difficult times. EDB is willing to join hands with Pakistan High Commission in Sri Lanka to expand volume of trade between two countries to further strengthen long standing commercial ties for mutual benefit”.

He said in February 2010, EDB had to cancel Sri Lanka’s participation at Expo Pakistan Exhibition at the last moment due to concerns of private sector. “However we believe that it is our responsibility to work with friendly neighbour to develop trade and provide opportunities for business communities of both countries to forge new trade ties.”

Ratnayake pointed out that there is untapped, vast potential for enhancing trade for both countries to explore using tariff concessions available under FTA. Despite concessions available under FTA, Sri Lanka’s exports to Pakistan accounted for less than 1% of total exports of the country.

He said EDB is ready to carry out series of promotional activities in Pakistan & Sri Lanka in collaboration with Pakistan High Commission for 2012. This will include conducting seminars to create awareness, mini exhibition for women entrepreneurs from both countries, single country exhibition, trade fair participation. Sri Lanka could also look into new opportunities that will arise from Free Trade Agreement Pakistan has with China, he added.

Ms Seema and Ratnayake expressed their firm resolve to work together to enhance economic ties, especially trade between two countries for mutual benefit. EDB organized Sri Lanka’s participation at My Karachi International Exhibition consecutively in 2007, 2008, 2009 & 2010 which paved way for Sri Lankan exporters to expand in Pakistan market.

EDB taken efforts to promote value added products to Pakistan market through this event viz. packeted tea, confectionery, herbal healthcare, ayurveda, wood based modular furniture, rubber products, gems, jewellery, porcelain tableware, paint, varnishes, pre- fabricated steel, electrical wiring accessories, LV panel boards, MCBs, switch boards, power panels, spiral duct work, accessories etc.

Pakistan is 2nd largest trading partner of Sri Lanka in SAARC region. It was 26th export destination for Sri Lanka in 2010 accounting for nearly 0.7% of total exports in value terms and has been 10th largest import origin contributing to over 2% of total imports to Sri Lanka in same year. According to Sri Lanka Customs statistics, value of total trade between both countries was $169 million in 2005, rose to $345 million in October, 2011 recording 4.5% average growth during this period.

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